Stepping out of the shadow to drive business value  

Stepping out of the shadow to drive business value  

Mark Ellis Blog, Procurement

I was fortunate enough to attend the recent Procurement Leaders Dinner, which was an excellent event to showcase procurement at the ‘top of its game’.  It leads me to wonder why our leading lights of the function have been successful in their enterprises, especially as most of the winners were truly focussed on transformation and creating business value.

The attendees were able to see procurement functions, leaders and future leaders deliver value for their enterprises. Whether that be through transformational change, technology, internal and external collaboration, innovation, value creation and pure great leadership.

Most, if not all the winners, are clearly focussed on their business and what makes their business successful.  What they are not – is looking at what makes a procurement function successful.

So, what was missing from the dinner?

The food was great. Interestingly, what was missing was any mention of cost reduction – there was very little talk over dinner concerning savings, cost reduction, supplier negotiation or tender process.  Why was this subject not mentioned, after so many recent CPO and CFO surveys have explained that cost reduction, management and control were still the number one challenge facing our function.

There could be a variety of reasons for this and of course, some enterprises have successfully managed the challenges surrounding sourcing, contracting and managing their third party spend.  What I did notice from the winners, is that they do struggle with many of the typical business cost challenges, that we all face every day.  However, they come from a completely different view – through the business requirement and what makes the enterprise successful.  Furthermore, I believe that these people thrive in enterprises that are facing changing market challenges, which requires them to be nimble and flexible in their approach.

In the past, I have talked about procurement stepping up their game and moving out of its comfort zone. I was pleased to see so many winners that had just done that.  Those organisations clearly are still delivering cost efficiencies within the organisation. However, the winners are thinking more strategically. They had showcased other elements of our profession’s work – whether that be supplier relationship management initiatives, risk management programmes, corporate social responsibility, driving innovation within the supply chain, implementing new technology or upskilling their capabilities within the enterprise.

What great leaders do

What I also noticed was true leadership. Many of the winners, are people that love our function and wish to make a difference for their enterprise enabled through great leadership.    That could be through engaging and collaborating with suppliers or through empowering people in their enterprise to believe procurement can make a significant difference.

I ask myself, do these individuals find the company that enables them to thrive or do they shape the outcome?  I suspect that it is a mixture of the two and those individuals shine through to provide value for their enterprises and people are drawn to them.

So, as all leaders within the procurement environment, please use that opportunity to demonstrate real value – ask yourself “what does my business require?” and “how can I enable business change and value?”.